Like an underwater version of Game of Thrones, corals constantly do battle with one another to gain and protect territory. That’s because corals are actually made up of millions of tiny animals called polyps that group together to form what otherwise appears to be a single organism.
The interactions of these miniature creatures are invisible to the naked eye, but now we can see them in action. That’s thanks to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, who have developed a powerful new microscope that can peer into the daily lives of these polyps. The images reveal their behavior as they feed, “kiss” and compete for resources.
The Benthic Underwater Microscope is able to capture high-resolution images of objects around a tenth the width of a human hair (about 10 micrometers). The microscope is either held by a human diver, or can be mounted beneath the waves to record corals in time-lapse mode revealing amazing scenes that no one has ever seen before.
As you can see in the video above, the polyps behavior can seem almost violent.